Since everyone’s mind is on the Superbowl and the Winter Olympics is coming up, I thought I would do a special athletic “do you know” post for black herstory month. If you can name this person and her import to sports and black history by Monday @ 12pm EST, I will give you a $20 gift certificate from powells books (preferably to be spent on a black author of your choosing):
Part Two (02/08/10):
Yesterdays “Do You Know” post was about Vonetta Flowers. She was a track and field athlete who switched to bobsledding in 2000. She won a gold medal on her first Olympic bid in bobsledding ever to become the first black person to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. That means she is:
- the first African American woman to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics
- the first African American (regardless of gender) to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics
- the first BLACK PERSON FROM ANY COUNTRY to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics
- one of a handful of athletes to switch sports at the Olympic level and go on to gold
Flowers story is an inspiration because of its rural to gold, N. American dream, trajectory. She was discovered in a competition held by Coach DeWitt Thomas in the parking lot of her modest grade school. She had the fatest running time of all the other students and was recruited to learn track and field. That recruitment, along with her own drive and determination, helped give her the funding and commitment to become the first person in her family to go on to college. Her track and field scholarship ensured Flowers would not have to worry about how to pay for school.
Her college years were also marked by athletic firsts in track and field. Not only did she win over 35 conference trials in track and field but she also became:
- the first person (of any race) to win All American seven times
Flowers first attempt at going to the Olympics was in 1996. Though she tried out, she did not make the team. When she tried out again in 2000 she was derailed by sports related surgery, the 8th in just a few short years. Instead of giving up, Flowers, spurred on by her husband, decided to switch sports. Initially going to the bobsled tryouts was Flowers way of supporting her husband, but after he pulled a hamstring muscle and could not continue, she took on the dream for both of them and brought home gold.
Flowers, and her bobsled partner Bonny Warner, were ranked 2nd in the U.S. and 3rd in the world. I’m sure this too is a first, but have not been able to confirm it.
Flowers strength and perseverance is an inspiration to women in sport. Her career proves that you can succeed in the most unlikely places and her commitment and drive, prove that you can succeed as an athlete even if you have to switch sports. Her success at the Winter Olympics also helped break the color barrier in winter sports and encourage other black athletes to consider sports traditionally dominated by white athletes and/or by men. She helped change the way that coaches and commentators talked about black athletes at the winter games and about black people’s participation in winter sports like bobsledding.
Our Contest Winner: No one made it by the deadline. Bianca, who was the first person to get the answer, has graciously suggested we have another contest. So be looking out on Sunday for another Do You Know Post.